Nov 26, 2009

Sears Island: Army Corps rejects MaineDOT plan for Sears Island-based umbrella mitigation bank

"Army Corps of Engineers nixes Sears Island mitigation plan."  What a wonderful headline to read. "Nix" has such an air of determination to it. Walter Griffin of Bangor Daily News reports MDOT's discomfiture, and Islesboro Islands Land Trust's Steve Miller continuing affectations of surprise at MDOT's yearnings to dismember Sears Island.  With a few tweaks,  Miller judges the partition as "...not a bad concept" .

Walter Griffin summarizes:
"Under the proposal, the DOT wants to use the 601 acres it has placed in a conservation easement on Sears Island as a mitigation bank. The state contends that having a MUMBI designation on the island would allow it to use that acreage to offset any wetlands disturbed during DOT activities such as road or port construction."
 ...
"The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is already on record as being opposed to the MUMBI proposal. The EPA determined in April that the plan failed to address aquatic resource restoration and would cause harm to the island's long-term ecological integrity.
 ....
"In the letter to Gates, the Army corps' regulatory division determined that the document lacked a statement detailing the "legal responsibility" for mitigation and "default and closure" provisions as required by law"......."if the corps approved the MUMBI, the DOT would have to obtain a federal permit each time it wanted to use the island site for mitigation."
...
"We have trouble with some of the details," [Islesboro Islands Land Trust's Steve] Miller said. "It's not a bad concept; however, we do have concerns. This focuses on preservation credits rather than the rehab or creation of wetlands."

FULL ARTICLE:
Army Corps of Engineers nixes Sears Island mitigation plan.
By Walter Griffin, Bangor Daily News
Nov. 26--Searsport, Maine -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has rejected the state's draft application to create an umbrella mitigation bank on Sears Island.

The corps announced its decision in a letter to the Department of Transportation sent earlier this month. The agency determined that the application was incomplete and suggested the DOT revise its proposal to meet federal guidelines.

"It merely slows the process and nothing prohibits them [DOT] from submitting the application again," Army corps project manager Ruth Ladd said last week. "It doesn't kill it because there is always the option to resubmit the application."

The Maine Umbrella Mitigation Bank Instrument, or MUMBI, is the first of its kind to be proposed in New England. Mitigation banks have been established in other regions of the country for years, she said.
DOT spokesman Mark Latti said the agency submitted its draft proposal on Oct. 6 and received the rejection notice a month later. He said DOT planned to file a revised application shortly.

"We are reviewing the areas that are deemed incomplete and we will be resubmitting to the corps for their review within the next few weeks," Latti said Wednesday.

Under the proposal, the DOT wants to use the 601 acres it has placed in a conservation easement on Sears Island as a mitigation bank. The state contends that having a MUMBI designation on the island would allow it to use that acreage to offset any wetlands disturbed during DOT activities such as road or port construction. The wetland bank would cover the entire state. The state has retained another 330 acres on the island for a potential cargo port.

Authority to create a wetland mitigation bank comes through the federal Clean Water Act and is administered by the corps and the Environmental Protection Agency. The corps has established an interagency review team, or IRT, to screen the state's application.

"The corps had to look at it and share it with the IRT, and we determined there were a few things the needed to be addressed and we sent it back to them," Ladd said of the draft application.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is already on record as being opposed to the MUMBI proposal. The EPA determined in April that the plan failed to address aquatic resource restoration and would cause harm to the island's long-term ecological integrity.

In the letter to Gates, the Army corps' regulatory division determined that the document lacked a statement detailing the "legal responsibility" for mitigation and "default and closure" provisions as required by law.


Stephen Miller of Islesboro Islands Trust expressed surprise last week that the state's application failed to meet the guidelines. Miller said that while he expected the DOT ultimately would succeed in gaining MUMBI approval, his group was concerned that the rules do not require the state to restore or enhance old wetlands that already have been disturbed.
"We have trouble with some of the details," Miller said. "It's not a bad concept; however, we do have concerns. This focuses on preservation credits rather than the rehab or creation of wetlands."

Ladd said that even if the corps approved the MUMBI, the DOT would have to obtain a federal permit each time it wanted to use the island site for mitigation.

"Just because there is a bank there's no guarantee they will be given a permit. The idea is to have mitigation that makes the most ecological sense," Ladd said earlier this year. "The umbrella sets up a framework for reporting and tracking. You can put a bunch of projects under an umbrella."

2 comments:

Publisher, Wild Maine Times said...

It's hard to know where to start when commenting on such an arch-hypocrite as Stephen Miller. Here we have the alleged environmentalist who together with Coastal Mountains Land Trust's Scott Dickerson hatched out in collusion with container port proponents the very dual development scheme for Sears Island to which this proposed mitigation bank proposal is so intimately bound. Miller and a state-selected group that most notably included a representative of the Maine Chapter of the Sierra Hiking Club signed their names to a state-sponsored consensus document in 2007 that said leveling and paving over more than a third of Sears Island for a container port is an "appropriate" use for the largest remaining totally wild island in public hands on the U.S. East Coast. How could they have possibly agreed to that? Perhaps because the agreement also allows for these "environmentalists" to build a sprawling development of their own. That's right, Miller and his collaborators in what is a very real crime are surprised and concerned over any upset to their plans to carve out of the woods of wild Sears Island a 25-acre campus of "education center" buildings (oh, that's right, there's also a provision for building rental office space), also an auditorium seating 400-500 people, a wind turbine of unlimited height and the usual asphalt blight of roadways and parking lots. Some environmentalists, huh? Consider raising a big fuss and asking some hard questions if you have any association with the sad lineal descendent Sierrans whose onetime prestige in protecting the island allowed this travesty to move forward. Or with any of the involved land trusts and don't forget Maine Coast Heritage Trust in Brunswick which in exchange for its signature took possession in February of 601 acres of precious Sears Island wildlands from the people of Maine on the basis of a gubernatorial executive order. Most people with any concern for Maine's natural heritage who have even heard of this issue apparently assume that Sears Island's interests are being properly looked after by so-called environmental stewards like Miller and the Maine Chapter Sierrans.

On another note, the BDN article fails to note there is a good reason why all of New England has thus far avoided inviting the Army Corps of Engineers to establish a federal wetlands mitigation bank. The record shows that in the West and South this intellectual instrument from the Reagan years is only a tool of untrammeled corporate development and, contrary of the expressed goal of the U.S. Clean Water Act that there be no net loss, has in fact only served to reduce the nation's wetlands. There is a lot of interesting information on this at the website for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, PEER.com. Interestingly, much of this particular work has been carried out by PEER New England director Kyla Bennett who in a past life as an EPA biologist during an earlier state-sponsored push for port development of Sears Island revealed in 1993 that the Maine Department of Transportation in its typical deceitful fashion had significantly fudged the figures downward on the extent of "troublesome" wetlands at the proposed industrial development site.

Ron Huber said...

"Sierra Hiking Club"
Ain't it the truth?

btw: Public Employees for Enviro Responsibility's website is www.peer.org not .com